Get Ready to Rumble. . ."
since Muhammad Ali and "Smokin Joe" Frazier fought
the Thrilla in Manila more than 25 years ago has there been
so much buzz. Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call called it
a modern-day "Clash of the Titans" the "Thrilla
in the LBJ Room."
event: A shouting match between two Democratic heavyweights in the
U.S. Senate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Russ Feingold (D-WI).
The setting: A Democratic Policy Committee luncheon. The issue:
Implementation of Feingolds Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform
Act (BCRA) and its impact on Senate Democrats.
luncheon was organized last week by Majority Leader Tom Daschle
(D-SD), who brought in Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 and Democratic
operative Bob Bauer of the law firm Perkins Coie LLP to present
competing viewpoints to the caucus. Bauer represents numerous Democratic
House and Senate campaign committees and has expressed opposition
to some of the provisions in Feingolds legislation. Wertheimer
is a "reform" supporter who played a large role in crafting
to the New York Daily News, which broke the story, the altercation
began when Bauer warned that senators could face criminal charges
for, among other things, seeking general support from an audience
that later makes soft-money contributions. Clinton, who voted in
favor of BCRA, expressed concern that the new law was unpredictable
and claimed members of the caucus could spend an enormous amount
of time and money defending against lawsuits filed by campaign adversaries.
Feingold dismissed the concerns as "irrational," Clinton
landed a stinging right hook. "Russ, live in the real world,"
she shouted. "Theyll be all over you like a June Bug."
Feingold fired back with, "I live in the real world Senator,
and I function quite well in it."
to reports from ringside sources, Clinton won the bout by TKO, as
a majority of Senators in attendance were nodding in agreement with
her. "She clobbered him," one source told the Daily
News. "It was riveting, it was wonderful," another
told Roll Call. "It was like a genie out of the bottle
somebody actually told Russ Feingold to go [expletive deleted]
apologized to Feingold on the Senate floor. However, he later stated
in an interview that a "core group of five or six Democrats,"
including Clinton, were "trying to find ways to get around
its high ratings, the show failed to stand-up to the epic Ali-Frazier
battle in the Philippines. Neither fighter floated like a butterfly.
Clinton, however, stung like a bee. It was a good fight nonetheless,
and evidence that "reform" supporters are quickly learning
that you reap what you sow. It may even be conceivable that they
are now silently applauding the lawsuit brought by more than 80
plaintiffs including members of Congress, organizations (the
Center among them) and individuals from across the political spectrum
in challenging the constitutionality of BCRA.
for Feingold, hes ready to stand toe-to-toe "with anyone
who tries to keep the current system even those who
vote for it [BCRA] and then try to undercut it."
if it means trampling on the U.S. Constitution.
- To read more
on the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of BCRA, click
July 25, 2002]